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The Future of Waste

Society Sustainability
February 27, 2013
Innovative approaches to transforming "waste" materials into new or better materials that can be instantly reused by nature or industry can be found throughout the world.
The phrase "cradle to cradle" was coined by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s. The current model is based on a system of "lifecycle development" initiated by Michael Braungart and colleagues at the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) in the 1990s. Inspired by nature, the model is a holisitc system which aims to be not only efficient but essentially waste free.
Check out these inspiring videos illustrating real-world "cradle-to-cradle" appraoches to sustainable economic and social development. They are models for creating goods and services that produce not only economic value, but social and ecological value as well.
Image: Plastic for recycling.
Credit: Si Griffiths (Attribution via Wikimedia Commons)

In 2002, William McDonough co-published a book called Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. This manifesto for cradle-to-cradle design provides specific ideas for companies, organizations and governments to achieve waste-free holistic systems. 


The Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program is part of Nike Better World – a companywide ethos built around designing products using the most sustainable methods possible. This approach envisions a closed-loop business – where waste at different stages of Nike operations, from product manufacturing to transportation and products at the end of their life, can be recycled and reused – often into new Nike products.


In an effort to curb the more than 12,000 metric tons of trash produced by residents each day, Mexico City officials have instituted a successful "food-for-waste" program to encourage recycling. Residents are able to exchange recyclables for green points that can be redeemed for food or seedlings at local farmers markets.  


Filipino inventor Jayme Navarro has patented an environmentally safe system for turning plastic into gasoline, diesel and kerosene. The fuel burns cleaner than regular fuel and costs 20 percent less because of the abundance of plastic wate in the country and low production costs.


Biogas systems are helping to curb deforestation in Rwanda driven by huge demand for fire wood. Today, biogas plants provide 75 percent of the power in the country's 14 prisons.


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